Expatica news

Family of kidnapped Arjan slams aid organisation

12 March 2004

AMSTERDAM — The family of kidnapped aid worker Arjan Erkel said it is “disconcerted” by the actions of volunteer organisation Artsen zonder Grenzen (AzG) which broke a media silence about the drawn-out saga this week.

Erkel’s father requested that a minimal amount of publicity about the kidnapping on Tuesday, his son’s birthday. But the French division of AzG gave an interview with French newspaper Le Monde on the same day.

And despite the fact that AzG or Doctors Without Borders said that Erkel had a lung infection, a spokesman from the Swiss division said in Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad on Thursday that the organisation was not trying to get medicine for him.

The spokesman said getting medical assistance to Erkel — who was kidnapped in the Russian republic of Dagestan in August 2002 — was seriously considered, but eventually ruled to be unfeasible.

“His whereabouts are unknown and there is no contact with the kidnappers and the exact diagnosis of his illness is unclear,” the Swiss spokesman said.

The kidnapped aid worker’s father, D. Erkel, has since questioned whether it was wise of AzG, known internationally as Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), to supply the media with information about the kidnapping, news agency ANP reported on Friday.

He said AzG was “sowing uncertainty and confusion” and that it was possibly putting the life of his son and other volunteer workers at threat.

But the organisation’s chief, Jean-Herve Bradol, said on Tuesday that it had decided to break its media silence because it was extremely concerned for Erkel’s survival. Sources have said Erkel is suffering from a lung infection and is threatened with execution.

The Dutch AzG arm said the decision to seek publicity was a conscious choice because time was urgent and authorities and investigators needed to be made aware of this.

Earlier this week, Russia denied accusations from AzG that it was involved in the kidnapping. The deputy presidential envoy in South Russia was reacting to allegations from Bradol that both Russian and Dagestan officials were involved.

Erkel was head of mission in Dagestan when he was kidnapped more than two years ago. He was primarily involved in sheltering refugees from Chechnya, but he was also reportedly in contact with US military observers before his disappearance.

A video tape and photographs sent to authorities have proved that Erkel is still alive and has also been reported that his kidnappers have demanded a USD 5 million ransom.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news